William Cook

Seven walks inspired by artists

  • From Spectator Life
Henry Moore, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Getty)

As we all discovered during lockdown, going for a walk is one of the best things you can do to keep your mind and body in good working order, and for me it’s even better if there’s some artistic or literary interest en route. Some of my favourite outings over these last few years have been spent following in the footsteps of artists and writers, and now Britain is opening up again it’s the ideal time to get back on the cultural trail. Here are a few of my favourite arty walks. I’d love to hear about some of yours.

Simon Armitage, The Pennines

High force waterfall on the river tees, on the route of the Pennine Way

Back in 2010, those clever, creative folk at Ilkley Literature Festival had the bright idea of asking Simon Armitage to write some poems for a poetry trail between his hometown, Marsden, and Ilkley. The result was a fifty-mile trek across the Pennines, punctuated by six site-specific poems, carved into stone slabs and boulders in scenic spots along the way (there’s also a seventh poem in a secret location, which isn’t marked on any maps). I’ve only done a bit of it so far, between Haworth and Mytholmroyd – both celebrated literary sites, Haworth for the Brontes and Mytholmroyd for Ted Hughes. I can’t wait to do the rest. These Stanza Stones are artworks as much as works of literature, sited by landscape architect Tom Lonsdale, and carved by Pip Hall.


Vanessa Bell, The South Downs

The view from Ditchling Beacon, the South Downs

The South Downs was home from home for the Bloomsbury Group, those progressive eggheads who revolutionised the arts and literature between the wars. Virginia Woolf lived at Monk’s House, a quaint old cottage in the sleepy village of Rodmell. Her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, lived at Charleston, a picturesque farmhouse near Firle, about seven miles away.

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